An Audio abstract by Leigh Blackall for AUPOV2011 http://www.aupov.com/
My name is Leigh Blackall. My work focuses on networked learning, or the process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another's learning. Some might see this as being social learning, even informal or non formal learning, indeed you can catch a glimpse of the difficulty I am having with a definition, by viewing the discussion page behind the Wikipedia entry for Networked Learning.
Lately I've been developing research projects and theoretical explorations around the ideas I have around networked learning, and I think this work relates to AUPOV2011's interests in "ubiquitous pedagogues" as mentioned by Geoff in the recording for Presenter Submission Criteria. I think we'd agree that pedagogues are informed by an understanding of learning, and so I would want to focus on ubiquitous learning, and save pedagogues for another day if that's alright?
Currently I am in the process of redrafting a paper on ubiquitous learning which I plan to have completed by the time we come together in Wollongong. My first draft of that paper questions what I see as a propensity in people conceiving of "ubiquitous learning" as being something inherently based in technological affordances. I see this initially through the inheritance that the term has with Mark Weiser's concept of ubiquitous computing, and further in the archived content from discussions, research and conferencing, such the Ubilearn conference.
My point of view is that our understanding of learning should not go easily into conceptual frameworks set up by technological developments, or metaphors, and that we need to least keep a safe distance from technology, or better still, develop a more sophisticated and critical appreciation of technology's role in society. This troublesome point of view reaches back into the 1970s, when Ivan Illich declared schools a type of technological framework, and called for society's radical deschooling to rediscover a freedom lost to that particular technology. His lessor known, but equally significant book, Tools for Conviviality extends his critique further, explaining through a very wide range of examples, how technology has unforeseen consequences on social values like freedom, independence and conviviality or communal spirit. Illich lay down some foundational thinking for subsequent authors like Neil Postman, who adds even more credibility to Illich's concerns in his 1992 book, Technopoly, where he goes right back to the ancient Greeks to find a consistent philosophical thread of concern over the consequences of technology.
Where does this lead? I'm not entirely sure, but in this age of apparently exponential growth in technological developments, I feel a need for an ethical and principled framework to help me navigate this space. How can I critically examine technology in such a way that preserves my values of freedom and conviviality. How can I discuss technology in a vastly wider scope, and not just in reaction to the latest innovation in phones, server based computing, or self publishing trends? How can conceptions of learning not only remain free from technological determinism today, but free from the older technological developments of institutionalisation, Commodification and capitalism? To me, and I'm sure to AUPOV attendees as well, learning is about much more than attending a school, enduring a curriculum, wearing a camera, or developing an online portfolio that aligns to measurable learning outcomes.